The Virginia Port Authority said the 64 Express container-on-barge shuttle service between Hampton Roads and the Port of Richmond will increase frequency from two to three sailings per week.
The barge used in the service can handle 80 to 100 containers, depending on their size.
“Adding a third sailing along with an overall increase in customers that are considering the barge as a means of transporting their cargo sets it up for success going forward,” said Rodney W. Oliver, VPA’s interim executive director. “This started out very small: one time a week and a few containers at a time. The next step is to get it to five days a week.”
Through August, 6,227 containers have moved on the twice-weekly barge service, compared with last year’s total of 4,386 containers. Barge traffic was off in 2011 because a major user temporarily scaled back its use of the service.
The barge service was the result of a larger effort to reduce truck traffic on Interstate 64, trim carbon emissions and better use the Port of Richmond, which lost its two last ocean carriers as a result of the recession.
“If you look at it in terms of roundtrip truck trips, thus far in 2012 we’ve taken nearly 12,500 trucks off the road and the emissions that go with that figure as well as a reduction in the wear and tear on the roads,” said Heather W. Wood, VPA’s director of environmental affairs. “Next year we expect to remove more than 20,000 truck trips from I-64.”
The port authority said an increase in barge traffic and greater use of the Port of Richmond could serve as a catalyst for economic growth and development around that facility. Major Richmond port customers include MeadWestvaco, Altria, Equistock and TFC Recycling. Besides container traffic, the port handles dry-bulk and breakbulk cargoes. - Chris Dupin